Nasi Lemak: A Recipe for Malaysia’s National Dish

Nasi Lemak is a Malaysian favorite, and is a must in any Malaysian-style breakfast. However it can be eaten throughout the day. It’s a dish that unites the nation, despite the diversity of ethnicities, cultures, and cuisines in Malaysia. Nasi Lemak consists of fragrant coconut rice with various sides and condiments. A typical plate of Nasi Lemak is served with fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard-boiled egg, and spicy sambal. For more elaborate versions, spiced fried chicken, chicken rendang (chicken cooked in a traditional coconut sauce), or curry chicken can also be included. Here are the recipes for Nasi Lemak and spiced fried chicken. Enjoy the flavors of Malaysia!

Recipe for Nasi Lemak

Coconut Milk Rice (4–5 servings)


  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 100 mL coconut milk
  • 350 mL water
  • Pandan (screwpine) leaves
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 thin slices of fresh ginger

Rinse the rice three times until the water stays clear, then drain. Add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Stir to mix. Add ginger slices and lemongrass. Fold each pandan leaf in half and tie it into a knot. Add to the mixture. Steam the rice or cook with a rice cooker. Once done, fluff up the rice and serve it hot.

Sambal (Chili paste)

  • 20 dried chilies, deseeded and soaked in water to soften (or 100 mL chili paste)
  • 4–5 garlic cloves
  • 10 shallots
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 2 onions (sliced into rings)
  • 1 teaspoon belacan (prawn paste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 200 mL water

Sambal - ingredients

sambal - doneBlend soaked and deseeded dried chilies to chili paste and put aside. Next, blend shallots, garlic, and ginger (spice paste) and put aside. Heat some oil in wok. Add belacan and fry until it releases its flavour. Add in chili paste and spice paste, fry until fragrant. Add in the onion rings and fry for a while. Then add in water. Season with salt and sugar, simmer over low heat until gravy thickens. Set aside.


Other Sides for Nasi Lemak

  • 1 cucumber (cut into slices)
  • 100 g ikan bilis (dried anchovies)
  • 100 g peanuts

nasi lemak

Rinse dry anchovies and peanuts and let them dry thoroughly. Heat some oil in a wok until it’s almost smoking. Fry the anchovies over low heat until they turn light brown and crispy. Strain and set aside.

Heat a clean wok until it begins to smoke. Add the peanuts and salt (optional) to roast. Lower the heat and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add a drop or two of vegetable oil and continue to roast until the peanuts start to turn brown. Set aside.

Prepare hard-boiled eggs and cut into slices, then set aside. Slice the cucumber and set aside.

Recipe for Spiced Fried Chicken (Ayam Goreng Berempah)

ingredients fried chicken

  • 6 pieces of chicken

«Coarse» ingredients (white plate):

  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 10 shallots
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • 2 lemongrass sticks (use upper, tender parts)
  • 2 inches turmeric
  • 1 or 2 red chilies
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
  • ½ tablespoons cumin

«Fine» ingredients (blue plate)

  • Black pepper powder
  • Chili powder
  • Curry powder
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • Flour (enough to coat chicken)

Clean the chicken and cut into medium size pieces or as desired. Blend all the coarse ingredients. Transfer onto chicken pieces after done grinding. Add the fine ingredients to chicken pieces. Mix until the chicken is thoroughly covered with spices and seasoning.

Sufficient marinating time is important, so cover with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Remove the marinated chicken from refrigerator an hour before frying to bring it to room temperature. Break an egg into marinated chicken and mix well. Add some flour to coated chicken for frying.

Heat up enough oil and fry the marinated chicken. Deep fry for 15–20 minutes until the chicken turns a golden-brown color and crispy. Once done, remove from oil and drain chicken on paper towel to remove excess oil. Now it’s ready to serve.

We are done! Nasi Lemak is typically served on a banana leaf. You can see in the pictures below what it looks like. But whatever you’re eating your Nasi Lemak from: Enjoy!




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